Are You Using the Right Research Methodology? Five Qualitative Approaches

Maybe you decided to perform a qualitative study for a deeper and more hands-on understanding than facts and figures alone.  Maybe a qualitative study fits better with your purpose statement.  Maybe you simply prefer a good story to scores of spreadsheets.  research


Qualitative approach it is!  But how can you be sure you are using the right qualitative approach and that your Chair or the IRB won’t make you start all over with a new research methodology, gasp?   


Tip:  Don’t combine qualitative approaches.  Know which one is right for your topic, purpose, and research question. In a short attention span nutshell, double check yourself before heading to your Chair. 

Narrative:  Research on the life of a single individual

Phenomenology:  Research on how a group of individuals experience a common phenomenon

Grounded Theory:  Stepping it up a notch from phenomenology, this research develops a theory from data that is generated by a group of people who experience a common phenomenon.  This research will end with a need for further research.

Ethnography:  Research that examines how people who are co-located in a shared culture experience a phenomenon.  On the other hand, Grounded Theory and Phenomenology subjects can be scattered.  You will want to really understand and have a passion for the culture you are studying and be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time in the field.  Think Jane Goodall.  Okay, maybe Margaret Mead. 

Case Studies:  Research that examines one or more cases within a system over time through multiple sources of data.  If you are thinking of this methodology, use measurable and detailed observations, interviews, reports, and documents.  Don’t forget audiovisual materials as an option for source material. 




For all of you qualitative researchers, what is your topic and approach? 


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